Rob Gronkowski said he knows what people expected after Tom Brady announced last month he was unretiring and would play next season.
Gronkowski, the four-time All-Pro tight end, surely would team up with Brady like the two had the past two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and for nine seasons with the New England Patriots, winning four Super Bowls together.
“I mean, it definitely goes together, like peanut butter and jelly, no doubt about it,’’ Gronkowski, 32, told USA TODAY Sports. “I love catching touchdowns from Tom. He loves throwing them to me.
“But he respects my decision, just like I respect his decisions.’’
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Rob Gronkowski #87 and Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium on February 07, 2021 in Tampa, Florida.
Gronkowski said he remains undecided about his future in football. He sat out the 2019 season during a temporary, one-year retirement before joining the Buccaneers and said the team has given him no deadline for finalizing his plans for next season. Gronkowski is currently a free agent.
“I’ve played 11 years,’’ Gronkowski said. “It’s not like you wake up after a game and you’re feeling amazing. It’s a beating. You get hit every single play.
“So if I’m not all in to do that, then I’m not going to put myself out there in that situation. But if I’m feeling that, if I want to go knock my head around, you know, put my body on the line, if I feel like doing that again, miss that, I would certainly sign another contract.’’
One thing he has committed to is hosting Gronk Beach, an NFL draft party in Las Vegas.
The party, to be held April 29 at Encore Beach Club within the Wynn Las Vegas, will coincide with the second day of the NFL draft, which will be held at Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders. The musical lineup will feature The Chainsmokers.
Tickets start at $55 and VIP tables and cabanas range from $2,000 to $100,000. But players picked in the first round of the draft can attend the party for free, said Gronkowski, who added, “So if they want to come, they can just hit me up and we’ll get them in.’’
If he were in charge of the No. 1 pick of the draft, Gronkowski said, he’d select Aidan Hutchinson, the defensive end who played for Michigan.
“I just watched one of those Michigan games and the way he was shooting off the line, just his quickness and his explosiveness is pretty special,’’ he said. “So I would probably go with him because if you get to the quarterback many, many times in the game, you’re going to most likely win that game.’’
But Gronkowski, who was a second-round pick in 2010, said teams also can shrewdly work the later rounds.
“There’s so many talented players that drop into the second round, third round, all the way up to the seventh round,’’ he said. “I would say if you’ve got an eye for talent, I think you can pick out some good players and then they can play cheap on your team for a couple years and just to help out your team and help out the salary cap.
“Getting a guy for $600,000 (a year) for four years is just an unbelievable price, so if you can draft from rounds two to six, you can definitely build an unbelievable team doing it that way.’’
It’s unlikely any of the players picked this year will outdo Gronkowski’s performance at the 2010 draft in New York after the Patriots selected him with the 42nd overall pick.
“When I got drafted, I actually put the helmet on,’’ he said. “I was jumping up on stage with my family, giving chest bumps. I gave Roger Goodell a big hug. I almost gave him a chest bump. That was really cool.
“I remember I got a call on the phone from the Patriots, like get off the stage. I was just going crazy. I was like, ‘Get off the stage? I just got drafted by you guys.’”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rob Gronkowski: Need to be ‘all in’ if I want to play in NFL in 2022